City Gal Moves to Oz Land

From City Lot to Country Acreage: A Pictorial Retrospective

 A tiny bungalow in Akron  

 From my teeny little city lot in Ohio... 

 blue sky views 

to expansive views that stretch for miles in Kansas. 

Next week will mark 3 years since I left my city life behind for a very rural existence in south central Kansas.  Any regrets, you ask?  My answer: None whatsoever!!  Who in the world wouldn't want to trade a postage stamp sized city lot for 27 acres of rural life?!  Three years later, I can't imagine living in the city ever again.

I traded my view of the neighbor's house to views like this...

putting up hay 

and this....


and this. 


 Three years later, I'm still mesmerized by our "forever" views out here on the Kansas prairie.

No tall buildings to block my view of spectacular sunsets and sunrises that make me want to pinch myself - is this for real?

 Do I really live here?

pond sunrise 

windmill sunrise 

  purple sunset 

In Ohio, we got lots and lots (and lots) of lake-effect snow.

Ohio snow 

Snowed in!  -Ohio city lot. 

 Kansas snow storms create fantastically beautiful landscape vistas, unlike any my city neighborhood could deliver.

snowy pond 

A serene snowy sunrise in Kansas. 

a frosty horse
A frosty mare.  

snowy Ringo  

 A snowy chocolate lab. 

 frosty tree break 

A frosty tree break. 

And I've seen creatures out here I would NEVER have seen in Ohio...

barn owl 

This young barn owl snuck into our shop and became entangled in fly tape. 

 It was quite an adventure for us to get a blanket over him and untangle the fly tape off him!

bull snake 

Large bull snake in back yard - it's best to wear your Muck boots out here.

wolf spider 

A large wolf spider reminds me again -  wear my Muck boots and not my flip-flops.

engorged tick 

My first experience with ticks - they are truly disgusting!

barn swallows 

Barn swallows guard their babies.

baby starlings 

A mama starling feeds her babies.

mama longhorn 

I never tire of watching our neighbor's longhorn cattle and checking out the new babies each year.

And finally, the view from our back yard. 

horses in our back yard 

 So my 3 year retrospective just reminds me how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful landscape. It would truly be difficult for me to ever return to city living again.  I am content to live the rest of my days here in the country.


Our Guinea Adventure

A photo of Oz GirlThinking about adding some guineas to your homestead?  I've been interested in guineas ever since I moved to Kansas in 2008.  My friend has a few, and every time I visited her I enjoyed watching her guineas free-range on her property.  In addition, I had heard they were excellent at tick control, and I was tired of picking ticks off our dogs or employing chemical means to keep them free of ticks and fleas!

But our chicken coop had been severely damaged in a pasture fire, so before we could get any birds at all, it needed renovated from the ground up.  Guineas and chickens were on hold for now, until we had more time to fix-up the coop... or so I thought.

The Old Coop 

On September 2nd we walked into Orscheln's for a few farm supplies, and lo and behold, they had new guinea keets and chicks in stock!  There were only 5 lavender guineas, which I wanted oh-so-badly.  Finally, hubby conceded and told me to go ahead and get them – he even bought them for me.  I was in guinea heaven.  I told Orscheln's staff I would return on Saturday to pick up the keets.  Sadly, one of the lavenders drowned himself before then, so I took a pearl guinea keet to replace him.  FYI – drowning is a common occurrence with young keets – to prevent this, I put rocks in their waterer for the first few weeks.

Week Old Keets 1 week old guinea keets 

Hubby spent all Saturday afternoon building a large brooder for the keets.  This worked out well, since I had decided I wanted to keep them on our enclosed back porch. And now this brooder will be handy when we get our first chickens this spring.


My goal was to tame them, but alas, I found out you really need to start this process from the day they hatch.  They were already a week old and sadly, quite skittish!  To this day, they squawk up quite a commotion when we enter the coop, but if I'm patient, and sit still with some millet, they will eventually peck it from my hand.

Next on hubby's agenda:  the chicken coop renovation.  This was no small task, since the coop was severely damaged in our 2009 spring pasture burn.  Even before the burn, the coop was not a very sturdy structure.

Renovated Coop in Progress 

Needless to say, it took quite a few weeks before the coop was ready to house the guinea keets.

Coop still a work in progress 

In fact, we released them to the coop on their 6 week birthday!  My advice:  have your coop ready if you get new birds.  At 6 weeks old, they were too big for the brooder and we were anxious to get them off our enclosed back porch.

Guineas at 6 Weeks Old 6 week old guineas 

It took the guineas 2 days to come off the edges of their brooder and explore the coop.  We continued working on the coop -- insulating the inside, painting the exterior, and building a temporary outdoor run.  This spring hubby will construct an outside enclosure, not necessarily for the guineas, but for the chickens we hope to add. The guineas will be allowed to free-range once spring arrives.

Finished Coop with Outside Run We still need to build a separate nursery area for future new chicks and a ladder roost inside the coop.  In the meantime, an old saw horse seems to work just fine for the guineas.

Guineas at 9 Weeks Old 9 week old guineas 

One word of caution: young juvenile guineas DO make a lot of noise.  They squawk at almost everything.  I've been assured this is a "teeenage" phase they are going through, and they will quiet down as they mature and realize that not everything is a threat.

Our chicken coop has come a long way - before winter weather arrived, hubby finished stripping off the old roof and installing used metal panels, adding a vent on one side, and installing electric.

Tearing off the old coop roofOld roof tear-off 

Finished Coop with New Roof Vent and Electric New roof with salvaged metal panels 

The internet proved to be a valuable resource for guinea information, as did Jeannette Ferguson's book, Gardening with Guineas.  Do you have guineas, or are you thinking about adding them to your homestead?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

The Cold Weather Garden

WinterHarvestHandbookMy grandiose fall garden plans - lettuce, green onions, pickling cukes and radishes - never materialized.  I can only blame the time bandit. Before I knew it, October was upon us, and I had not planted any fall veggies.  Coincidentally, I had just ordered Eliot Coleman's "The Winter Harvest Handbook" from Amazon.  As I read through each chapter, I became more and more intrigued by this concept of continuing the harvest through the winter months.  If Eliot can do it in Maine, then I could certainly do it here on the Kansas/Oklahoma border!!

As a side note: this is an excellent book, rated 5 stars by 37 reviewers on Amazon thus far and soon to be given high marks by me also.  I found the history of cold weather gardening to be fascinating, as narrated by Eliot, proving that nothing is new under the sun.

And so I ordered a row tunnel cover from Burpee's website and planted a short row of spinach on October 3. This would be my initial foray into cool weather gardening, and so a short row would be my experiment. Spinach is one of the top cold-hardy vegetables.  As such, it will actually prefer our cool fall and winter weather to the stifling hot weather we have in the summertime. Like a nervous mother hen, I checked on my babies every single day, uncovering them to soak up the sun during the day, and lowering the cover at night to protect them from the cold.  As our nights began to dip into the 30s, I draped towels over the row cover for even better insulation.

October 20 Spinach 

Above photo ~ spinach sprouts on October 20.  Below photo ~ first spinach harvest on November 3. 

November 3 Harvest 

Harvest was estimated for day 42, and yet I began clipping baby leaves for salads at the 3 week mark. As of November 20, the spinach is still doing remarkably well, even though we've had several nights in the 20s now.  Quite honestly, I haven't even put the towels on the row cover at night, and the spinach is still doing remarkably good!

November 20 SpinachAbove photo ~ still beautiful spinach on November 20. 

I'll continue to keep it covered, watered and nurtured as long as it continues to grow.  And I'll count this experiment a success and plant even more fall veggies next year.

When I look at the bigger picture and my dreams... I would love to have a coldhouse (or two!) similar to what  Eliot has in Maine, and supply our local community with fresh greens and root vegetables throughout the cooler months of the year, when fresh, local veggies are in short supply.  Someday! 

Rethinking Our Food Supply

A photo of Oz GirlWhere does most of our food come from, and how has it been processed? I find this question occupying a significant portion of my mind these days.  I’m sure I owe some of my meditations to the ever-more-common media broadcasts of food-borne illnesses and large-scale contaminations.

In the past few years, there has been more concern about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our seed crops, along with a loud outcry against the abuse of hormone and antibiotic-injected animals in crowded, dirty feedlots. I know it’s getting more difficult for me to go to the supermarket and purchase vegetables, fruits, and meats when I know the processing methods are controversial or downright inhumane, and most likely harmful to our health.

Advocates for good stewardship of our planet, which includes a healthier food environment, have raised the public awareness about our industrialized food supply and all its connected society ills.  These advocates are tirelessly touting small-scale and sustainable farming as a way for us to get back to the local, seasonal and regional food supply with unending benefits for our health and our planet.

Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat


The book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat heralds the growing movement of women who are at the forefront of changing how we eat and farm in the United States.  Certainly men are involved in this movement too – it’s just that women (as usual!) are not being given credit where credit is due.  For example, women are the fastest growing number of diversified farmers in our country, with a 30% increase in women farm operators from 2002 to 2007.

Think about it – women have always been the primary nurturer in the family unit.  Women have the largest impact and concern when it comes to what they feed themselves and their families.  So it only makes sense that they are the fastest growing demographic to own and operate farms in the U.S., and they are tending towards diversified, direct-marketed foods that create relationships with eaters.

Each chapter in Farmer Jane focuses on a different area of change – from “Building New Farm-to-Eater Relationships” to “Advocates for Social Change” to “Networks for Sustainable Food” -- you’ll read the tales of women working to bring sustainability back to our dinner plates.  Trust me, this book will inspire and motivate you to have more control over your own food supply.  To help you, there is a Recipe for Action at the end of each chapter – ideas for how you as an eater, a farmer, or an owner/employee of a food business can join in. Even if you have no desire to farm or garden, there are many tips in Farmer Jane on how to eat well and help your community thrive at the same time.

I haven’t even finished the whole book, and yet it has already affected my food meditations. We have a distinct advantage since we already live on 27 acres in the country, and our first garden this year produced a fairly bountiful harvest with enough to preserve for winter, plus we learned a boatful about growing our own produce and preserving it.  Now it’s just a matter of expanding upon what we are fortunate enough to have (27 acres) – the possibilities are certainly endless and limited only by our capabilities and time (ah yes, the TIME bandit!).

I always say “start small”.  I can’t change all our ways and [bad] habits overnight; if I try, I’m going to overwhelm myself.  But I can pick a few items to change each month so that I will rely on commercial, grocery-store products less and less as time goes by. My goals are to buy less at the supermarket and make or grow more things ourselves, or source them organically through fair trade organizations.  As an example, I can’t grow my own tea or coffee, so I will source them through a company that has an organic and fair trade philosophy.  I bought my first loose-leaf black tea from Arbor Teas today, so I can still have my delicious iced tea everyday.  No more supermarket tea for this gal!

Next, I want to experiment with making my own shampoos and conditioners, and eventually my own lotions and perfumes. Yes, I want to make and source more than just my own food! If I can grow my own lavender, that might dovetail nicely with making perfume in the future.  I’ve done a small amount of research into the how-to’s, and it all seems very doable.

Read this book, research other books on the food industry, and start your own mini-food revolt.  You vote with your dollars every time you buy either chemical or non-chemical agriculture.  Think about it – if everyone can afford new cars, the latest cell phone or other techno-gadget, expensive jeans and shoes, etc. – well, then, you CAN spend more on your food.  Eating organic, seasonal, fresh food does cost a little bit more.  It’s up to you what commands more of your earned dollar – fun new gadgets, or fresh healthy food?

Make a conscious choice and “vote with your fork” to eat for a healthy body and for a more sustainable planet.  And visit the Farmer Jane website to find out more about this timely and information-packed book, along with links to some fantastic sustainable food and farming websites.

Learning the Fine Art of Gardening (Again)

A photo of Oz GirlThe subtitle for this post should be: What We WON'T Do in Next Year's Garden.

We decided our first-year garden would be small.  Small space still equals big work.  My husband and I have both gardened in our past lives, but it's been so long ago ... we realized our little garden would be a re-learning experience. The ultimate goal is to enlarge our garden each season so that eventually it will be a garden befitting the 27 acres it sits upon.  Who knows, maybe there are farm markets and CSAs in our future!

I digress with my hopes and dreams, so back to our small garden and our first year results.

Our plot measured only 15 by 16 feet.  We planted corn, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, and several varieties of tomatoes and peppers.  A few renegade marigold plants rounded out the small plot.  We were looking forward to a summertime of grilling and eating our own sweet corn on the cob ... canning every conceivable pickle flavor a person could think of ... fresh green bean salad and extra beans for preserving ... spicy radishes in our salads ... and tomatoes and peppers for our own fresh-from-the-garden spaghetti sauce and salsa.

Our small garden in June

Some of our dreams came true, while others did not.

Sweet corn
Score: Humans - 0, Weather - Home run
The temps in Kansas this summer were scorching.  Despite our best efforts and watering the garden every single morning, the corn just didn't make it.
Our didn't-quite-make-it corn

A definite home run for us.  We've had cucumbers coming out our ears!  I have canned bread 'n butter pickles, dill pickles, refrigerator dills, Christmas Red Pickles, and sweet relish.  We haven't bought a grocery store cucumber since May. And there are still more cukes coming.
Preserved Cucumbers

Green Beans
Nope.  Didn't make it.  I think the zombie bunnies got 'em at night.  We would see small new beans sprouting, but then in a few days, they would disappear.
Baby Green Bean

Lots of radishes.  So many to harvest all at once, I had to take some to work and give to fellow employees.  After all, you can't preserve radishes for future use!

Pepper Plants
Jalapeño, sweet and bell peppers.  Sadly, they are being crowded out by our tomato plants.  Last year I had several pepper plants in pots (serrano and chile) and they did marvelous.  I'm still using some of the frozen peppers from last year's harvest.  This year I have harvested only one jalapeño.

Tomato Plants
Roma, Big Beef and Jetsetter varieties.  They have grown into massive plants and I have staked them every which way, with string running from stake to stake, trying to hold them all up.  I have harvested several small batches and made spaghetti sauce, but we haven't had one large harvest wherein I could preserve tomatoes for future use.  Yet.  There are a lot of green ones out there and I'm hoping they ripen simultaneously.
Tomatoes - ready to harvest soon

Renegade Marigolds
Grew into small bushes.  Huge. Will definitely plant more flower varieties in garden next year.
Bush marigolds

Here are the lessons we have learned and will apply to next year's garden.

1. Give the cukes their own space. They tend to invade anything within 2 feet.  We will plant them separately from everything else in our garden next year.  We will have a separate cucumber garden, with regular cucumber varieties and pickling cukes.

2. Do not fudge on spacing. We wanted to plant so many different things in our small space, we fudged on plant spacing – if it said plant 2 feet apart, we planted 1.5 feet apart.  Don't do it.  If anything, plant further apart than the seed or plant instructions indicate.  Give every single plant adequate space to flourish.

3. Be sure to thin out plants when seedlings are tall enough.  We thinned everything, but again, we fudged.  It is one of the hardest things in the world to pick healthy plants and toss them so the remaining plants have room to grow.  But you MUST do it.  It's imperative so the remaining plants are healthy and the resulting veggies are large enough to eat.

4. Be sure to use tomato cages to help contain your tomato plants.  We neglected to do this, and our tomato plants are all over the garden.  I've been weeding the perimeters of the tomatoes and staking and stringing haphazardly to keep the fruit off the ground.  Also, nip back the side growth to help the plants grow tall in the beginning, then once they've reached the desired height, start nipping them from the top to encourage them to bush out. (I received the nip tip from my son the other day – he's reading The Backyard Homestead.)

5. Fence the garden. Protect it from the bunnies and other wildlife.  We were going to do this, but somehow just didn't find the time.

6. During the winter, I need to read and research plant diseases and insects more thoroughly.  I'm pretty sure these are nematodes on the roots of my tomato plants (see photo), but that's about all I know.  Why they appear, how they affect your plants (or do they affect the plants? I'm still harvesting tomatoes!) and how you prevent them are unknown to me.

Root Nematodes?

Fall Garden Plans

Since our temps have finally cooled down from the 100s to the 70s and 80s, I'll be cleaning up the garden over the next week.  I hope to plant our fall garden by the middle of next week – lettuce, radishes, and pickling cucumbers.  (I'm determined to preserve even more cucumbers before winter is here.)  I'm going to fortify the soil before I plant the fall garden, and I'm also going to use Sea Magic Organic Growth Activator.  I've read rave customer reviews about this product on Burpee's website.

We also need to determine where the strawberry beds will be and get that area ready for next spring by killing the grass and turning the dirt.  Decision needs to be made – raised bed, or not?

2011 Garden Plans

We'll be planting a strawberry bed in addition to our veggie garden.  We're also going to get serious about building a few good compost piles.  We started a pile last year, using horse manure, but neglected to turn it or add other organic matter to the pile.  Just horse manure alone a good compost pile does not make!

Lavender beds are a must in my 2011 plans, as I would love to dry my own lavender and make my own potpourri and sachets for gift-giving.  If there's enough lavender, I will sell the extra locally or on

Final garden summary: It's been a great re-learning experience for both of us. I think it's safe to say we're looking forward to Gardening 2011 - both the expansion and our renewed efforts to grow a bigger and better harvest!

Frozen Lemon Squares Take the Heat Off Summer

A photo of Oz GirlWhen I was recently asked to bring a dessert to a fellow employee's last day at work, I was stumped. Scratching my head, I thought "what in the world could I make that would NOT involve using my oven." The last thing I wanted was a hot kitchen when the temps outside had been in the upper 90s!

So I started digging through my ole trusty recipe box, thinking I had an old lemon squares recipe that might be perfect. And I did! By golly, I hadn't made this recipe for almost 20 years, at least. So I was a bit concerned that it wouldn't be tasty enough to take somewhere for others to eat. Thankfully, I had no reason for worry. It was every bit as good as I remembered, and then some. Everyone at work loved it ... several said they normally don't care for lemon but they loved the mild flavor and the sweet coolness of this dessert.

Frozen Lemon Squares

1/4 cup butter, melted
1-1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1- 14 oz. can  Eagle sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup ReaLemon
Few drops yellow food coloring, optional
Whipped topping

Combine butter, crumbs and sugar. Press into 8" or 9" square pan. Beat egg yolks. Stir in Eagle milk, lemon juice and food coloring.  Pour into crust and chill in freezer. After an hour or so, when filling has set, add whipped topping and return to freezer til firm.

Frozen Lemon Squares

My recommendations:

I used the juice of one lemon and added enough ReaLemon to get my 1/2 cup. I also made my own graham crackers using graham flour, which gave the crust a more grainy texture. Don't substitute whole wheat flour if you make your own graham crackers. Be sure to use whole wheat GRAHAM flour - trust me, they taste much better! I think you could also increase the brown sugar and honey somewhat if you want your crackers sweeter. I sprinkled mine with cinnamon sugar before I baked them.

I'll just bet you've got some picnics to go to this weekend ... why not take a sweet and chilly treat that's easy to make and sure to please most everyone?!

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

A photo of Oz GirlWhen I moved to Kansas almost 2 years ago, my love for our beautiful rural area encouraged me to think of ways to live more gently on the land and to leave less of a footprint, especially where chemicals are concerned.

I must admit I find myself on a roller coaster where being environmentally “green” is concerned ... one day I want to be more economical and more environmentally conscious, and other days I feel like it’s too much effort. So I won’t lie, it can be a struggle at times. Sometimes it’s easier to revert to what appears to be easier. Honestly, if you really think about it, using prepackaged detergents and cleaners is not EASIER (and it’s definitely NOT cheaper!), it is simply that we have become accustomed to buying many of our home cleaners “off the shelf,” for the sake of perceived convenience. I believe that if we can adjust our habits, then those new habits will eventually become the “new” easy. And we’ll feel really good about it too. A big bonus.

There is no shortage of recipes for all types of home cleaners on the internet. But let’s start with something simple. I feel that this particular challenge is possibly one of the easiest first transitions to make.

I am going to give you a recipe to make your very own homemade laundry detergent. And if you are saying “I don’t think I’m inclined to make my own laundry detergent,” well, then, I’ll give you some tips later to save with what you ARE using.

First, the recipe:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/3 bar of cheap soap (Fels Naptha), grated
  • 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup of Borax (20 Mule Team)
  • 5-gallon bucket for mixing
  • 3 gallons of water

Washing soda and Borax

Tips:  You can use Fels Naptha or any regular bar soap for the cheap soap. Washing soda and Borax can both be found in the laundry aisle at your grocery store. (Usually.) Except at Walmart in Kansas. What the heck??!

First, mix the grated soap (I’ll be using Lever, since we have a bunch of it) in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! homemade laundry detergent.

Yep. That’s it.  Simple, huh?

Or, if you prefer powder detergent, it’s even easier:

  • 1 cup grated Fels Naptha soap
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax

For light loads, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled loads, use 2 tablespoons.

The savings?? You can save 90% of the cost of store-bought by making it yourself. Total cost per load? In the neighborhood of 2 cents. Store-bought detergent, depending on what you buy and where you buy it, can cost about 20 cents per load – 10 times more.

(I’m buying the washing soda and Borax as soon as I can find it somewhere here in the land of Oz, so I will let y’all know what I think of homemade detergent once I’ve had the opportunity to mix my own and try it out.)

Now, here’s another novel idea that’s been hashed out in the public biosphere:

Is detergent even necessary?

Seventh Generation’s co-founder, Jeffrey Hollender, wonders why more people haven’t stumbled upon laundry’s big, dirty secret: “You don’t even need soap to wash most loads,” he says. “The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own.”

Wow!  Really, Jeffrey, he-who-heads-up-a-household-cleaner-company?  Are you totally serious??  I applaud you for even uttering this statement, when you obviously stand to profit from selling as much laundry detergent as you can!

As it turns out, something that may be even more effective than soap is agitation. Ancient people used rocks and rivers, but your modern washing machine can clean lightly soiled clothes by just pushing them around in water.

So when you think about the way our forefathers did laundry, it does make you wonder: Is the laundry detergent industry a huge sham, just a way for others to profit from our ignorance?? One thing I can assure you: The powers-that-be are surely not unhappy when you use TOO much of your fancy-schmancy concentrated detergent.  Read this recent eye-opening article from the Wall Street Journal to learn more about “The Great American Soap Overdose.”

The blog Funny About Money decided to conduct experiments using only water in their washing machine. Their final analysis? “By and large, all of the freshly washed clothing came out with an odor: It smelled of clean water!”

If washing your clothes in plain ole water just doesn’t float your scuzzy boat, nor do you really want to make your own detergent, here are some other good alternatives:

  • Use half the amount of detergent you normally use.  By and large, you will not see any difference at all – your clothes will be just as clean as when you use tons of detergent.
  • Try one of the new eco-friendly detergents on the market – you’ll use less, and be gentle on our environment at the same time.
  • I highly recommend Method – only 4 squirts from the bottle for most normal loads! And it’s high-powered, plant-based formula is made using 95 percent natural and renewable ingredients. It’s readily biodegradable and non-toxic in use, for skin-friendly clean clothes. I got my 10 oz. bottle of Fresh Air scent (smells extra good!!) at Lowe’s for $7.99 – you can get a $2 off coupon at the Method website.
  • Other eco-friendly detergents to try: Seventh Generation, greenworks by Clorox.

Eco-friendly laundry detergents

Costs for the above alternative detergents:

  • Method, 25 load size, $7.99/btl, 0.3196 cents per load
  • Seventh Generation, 99 load size, $19.99/btl, 0.2019 cents per load
  • greenworks* by Clorox, 60 load size, $7.97/btl, 0.1328 cents per load

*I think the greenworks was on sale at Lowe’s, about $2.00 off.  I think ... can’t remember? Regardless, it’s still the cheapest of the bunch overall.

Ok, y’all, that’s my two cents worth on laundry detergents. There's tons more information out there on the big ole internet, if you need or want it.

I’m really getting into this self-sustainability gig, and it sure makes me feel good to reduce my reliance on Walmart and other big industrial giants.

If you’ve made your own detergent, or dishwashing detergent, or mayonnaise (yes, you can make your own mayo too!), then do tell me about it. I’d love to hear your story!